Young Journey – From Passion to Non-Profit

 

Young Journey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to “inspire young people worldwide to be lifelong learners eager to contribute to society through project based workshops and community events.” I had the pleasure of meeting the founder, Jaha Wilder at a recent Texas Business Women’s meeting. When I heard she had been running Young Journey since 2000 I knew I had to talk to her because that is quite an accomplishment.( I learned it was nothing compared to the adversity she faced as a teenager.)

Jaha is Swahili for dignity – how great is that? My parents were lazy in the picking-out-a-name department. A cursory search said Lynn means “ruddy-complected”. That’s inspiring (not!)…but I digress.

Jaha grew up in east Austin, in a large, musically-oriented family(she’s the youngest of 10). Her experience as a young girl, taking free classes at Rosewood Park eventually came full circle. “I lived with what Young Journey is.”

Young Journey is a real world model for the children that participate. It gives them ownership of what they are doing while instilling a work ethic and providing character lessons while letting them know how valuable they are. Here is an example of their work. They are currently working on a short film and the kids are involved in every aspect from writing, production, marketing, etc.

However, she didn’t start out with grand dreams of starting a non-profit. Instead, she took to the road as an entertainer. After deciding the entertainment business wasn’t for her, she saw how the lower income kids lacked support, their needs were not being addressed. Using her passion for music and lyrics, she wrote a CD called “Young Journey Children’s Music”. Her sister told her to take it to the schools and eventually it grew into the performing arts, media and sports program it is today. Young Journey is in three states – New York, Texas and Tennessee.

We talked a lot but there are several key points Jaha brought up that I believe are pertinent to starting any kind of business, whether for- or non-profit.

Follow your passion.

First, follow your passion. While Jaha describes her position as a “quadruple full-time job”, she said it “unfolded” naturally. She just pursued her passion for music and kids. While it wasn’t always an easy road, she admits that her biggest obstacle was getting past herself (preaching to the choir!)

Young Journey had been in operation for four years before she pursued 501(c)3 status. She’d been stubbornly resisting that step. But through the summer it took her to do the paperwork to set up her non-profit and all of the other challenges, what kept her going was the children she was serving. “It’s challenging, that’s why people want to give up.” When you follow your passion you have a powerful “why” to get you through the rough times.

Jaha said, “Whatever you love will help somebody, don’t do if for the money.” We don’t need to have Mother Theresa aspirations. Jaha proves that everything can provide value, like her music, in unsuspecting ways.

Be clear,  specific and commit!

It’s important to form your vision and articulate it. “We need time for it to unfold in ourselves first. We need to be clear about what we are doing” and why we’re doing it. We need to be committed to it – if we aren’t committed, why should anyone else be? “But as you move forward, you begin to attract the people you need” and who need you.

Collaboration not competition

This brings up a good point. When people come into your life that can help you, it’s important to ask how you can help them. Collaborating with people is a win-win and can go far in helping your realize your vision. As Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Ask, don’t tell.

The program grew because Jaha asked the kids what they were interested in. How many of you ask your clients what they want or need and then develop products/services to meet them? Or do you fall in love with your idea without asking if there’s a market for it, investing a lot of time and energy on something that’s a bust?

There is a difference between buying and selling. Buying is willingly purchasing something you want or need. Selling is attempting to convince someone that they want or need your product. No one wants to be sold.

Talk to your clients or prospective clients, get to know their goals as well as their problems. Put more time into researching their pain points instead of selling your products. When you do they will buy from you. When you show an interest in them, they become invested in you.

Good Advice

I asked Jaha what advice she has for women that want to start their own non-profit:

“Do it! My father said ‘Just do it’ long before Nike. Just start doing something everyday, even if it’s small. Learn something about the industry as often as possible and surround yourself with positive people. ‘Get rid of the dead weight’, my aunt would tell me.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the resources at hand. It will come. Just go and HAVE FUN! Enjoy what your doing and learning. Reflect on what you’ve achieved. Remember to be a model, not just to the youth but to each other. Work together and support each other.”

Learn more about Young Journey at www.youngjourney.org.

 

 

 

 

What the heck is Psycho-Cybernetics?

What the heck is psycho-cybernetics?

I happened to pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer a couple of months ago. It says on the cover that it has helped millions find greater self-esteem and fulfillment and the premise of the book is “by expanding your self-image you expand the limits of your talents and capabilities.” Bottom line is when you develop positive inner goals you will be able to create positive outer goals. It asserts you’ll never change your behavior until you change your self-image.

You may wonder why I read these books if my focus is on helping entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about marketing, business plans, financials, etc? While those are all important to a business,what I’ve discovered is none of that matters if you can’t get past your own fears and self-limiting beliefs. That is why I spend so much time learning about how we think and exploring our mindset. The first step to creating a successful business is believing you can.

Much of what the book said resonated with me. As a coach, I think the most valuable part of my training was becoming aware of and questioning the validity of my own thoughts and beliefs. We tend to live with them as if they are unchangeable truths, when in fact, we can choose to change them at any time. But the problem is most of us are unaware of what we think and believe because they’ve become so ingrained and habitual. So we react instead of respond and get tripped up by our own negative thinking or as psycho-cybernetics would explain it, a poor self-image.

What does psycho-cybernetics mean anyway? Maltz believed the mind/body connection regulates our self-concept or image. Cybernetics, according to Wikipedia, is “an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities … Cybernetics is used when a system displays a closed signaling loop – a ‘circular causal’ relationship. The action in the system creates a change in the environment and that change is reflected in the system and triggers a system change.”

In English, cybernetics refers to an automatic guidance system. Maltz believed that our brain and nervous system function as a “servomechanism” or goal seeking device. According to Maltz, it is our self-image that determines whether we are successful or not. And what determines our self-image? Our thoughts and beliefs. We always act in a way that is consistent with our self-image.

Like computers (but so much more complex), our brains follow whatever directions we give it. We have a conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind looks at its options and chooses the one it sees best. When it makes its choice, all other options are eliminated at that moment.

The subconscious mind will move in the direction and do whatever the conscious mind tells it.

Our experiences, upbringing, religion, socializing, schooling, etc have all played a huge part in creating our thoughts and beliefs. Through repetition, those thoughts and beliefs have become ingrained and habitualized in our subconscious. Problems in our self-image occur when we internalize negative thoughts and beliefs and we are unable to move beyond them. We think we are bad at math, hence any other options cease to exist so our subconscious mind follows orders – bad at math. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point.

Psycho-Cybernetics is about becoming aware of these habitual patterns of thought and self-limiting beliefs and reprogramming your brain for success.

Psycho-Cybernetics consists of six steps:

  1. Program yourself for success.
  2. Imagine your way to success
  3. Relax
  4. Set goals
  5. Use negative feedback for course correction
  6. Disinhibit your personality

Step one is about being aware of our thoughts. Are they serving or hindering us? Does the belief that you are bad at math serve you when you are trying to look at the financials of your business or do they hinder you, resulting in overspending, low margins, etc. Negative thoughts and beliefs equal negative outcomes.

Our thoughts and beliefs aren’t unchangeable truths. You have a choice. Your subconscious mind will follow whatever you choose, good or bad.

What do you do about those negative thoughts? Maltz offers CRAFT – you become aware and challenge the negative thoughts/ beliefs and replace them with positive ones –

  • Cancel the negative data (actually say “cancel” out loud),
  • Replace it with a positive thought,
  • Affirm your new image to yourself,
  • Focus on the image of a successful you and
  • Train yourself for lasting change (acting as if).

Visualization is also a powerful tool used in psycho-cybernetics. Our brain can’t distinguish between a real or imagined event. By visualizing a successful outcome, you are, in essence, training your brain. Athletes do it all the time with mental rehearsal. It’s the ol’ “fake-it-till-you-make-it” concept.

Programming yourself and imagining success is essentially bringing your thoughts and beliefs into your awareness and challenging those that aren’t serving you and creating a new vision of how you want to be, rewriting a new script, telling a different story, through visualization.

The next step is to learn to relax.The whole point of these books is to take control of your life and create it on your terms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to think clearly or creatively when we are stressed. We actually have three brains. One is our primitive brain – it operates strictly on instinct, one is for emotions and the neo-cortex is what gives us our distinct advantage over other primates. It’s all about higher reasoning and critical thinking. However, when we are stressed, our primitive brain takes over. We are in survival mode. We react, we’re operating on instinct. It overrides all critical thinking. There’s no time for that – we’re in danger.

Managing stress is imperative to being able to achieve our goals.

The key to a lot of modern day stress is to understand most situations are neutral. It is our response to it that creates stress. We also tend to take ownership of problems that aren’t ours. 

Can you depersonalize the situation? Mistakes or problems do not define you. Do not identify with your disappointments. There is a big difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a failure”. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

What’s a guiding system without a target, right? Goals give us direction, otherwise we’ll just be drifting along like flotsam in a river, at the mercy of the current. It’s important to choose goals that are yours – not what your parents want, your spouse, your best friend, etc. (I specifically address the goal setting process in my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It). Goals force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone so take small steps. Give yourself time to grow into your goals. And while you should have a plan, remain flexible and take consistent action. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t get caught in the trap of “trying harder”. You didn’t make a mistake, it’s not you. Consider it feedback and do something different. Keep moving forward.

My take on psycho-cybernetics is when we quit buying into our negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, productive ones, we are on the path to achieving our goals.

 

 

 

 

3 Tools to take action on your goals

3 tools to take action on your goals

What percentage of people do you think achieve their New Year’s resolutions? 50%? 33%? 12%?

It’s actually 8%. I’m not surprised. We sincerely want to quit our bad habits, pursue our dreams and be our best selves, but when it’s time to work on our goals, why are we suddenly compelled to clean out the vegetable drawer – or is that just me? Our intentions are good but our follow through, well, sucks.

To make matters worse, when I set goals I think I have superhuman powers and put unrealistic demands on myself and my time – who needs sleep? I never questioned this approach and each time I felt like a failure because not only did I NOT reach my goal, I barely got started.

I thought I lacked discipline but the problem wasn’t me, the problem was my approach. I didn’t need iron-clad willpower, what I needed was a system that took me from planning to DOING. Action is the only way to build momentum and create new habits and I’ve discovered a few tools that helped me move through my fears and resistance to reach my goals.

But first, I’d like to talk about how our brain works. Our brains have 3 parts:

  • the primitive brain handles our survival instincts,
  • The limbic is our emotional brain and is used for building social bonds.
  • The neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic and reasoning.

For goal-setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience fear or stress, the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every. Single. Time. It’s going to do everything in its power to alleviate that stress. My unrealistic plans triggered some fear and my primitive brain reacted, thus the overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. I needed a subtler approach so my brain worked for, not against me. The tools that work for me are: break it down, the 5 minute plan and low expectations.

1. Break it Down

In my previous process, to use a writing analogy, I tried to jump from never writing to a finished novel overnight. It’s like expecting a baby that just learned how to roll over to start running. I was depriving myself of the learning opportunities in all those little steps and the habits and confidence they built. I finally realized that achieving a goal means growing into it, one step at a time.

2. Commit to 5 Minutes

The 5 minute plan is a another great tool to overcome resistance. I actually thought I could work 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week and another 16 hours on the weekend to work on my goals, in addition to my full-time job and everything else life threw at me. And I wondered why I couldn’t get started! Then a coach suggested I turn it down a notch and start with 5 minutes. It seems counter-intuitive, What could I accomplish in 5 minutes? Never mind that I wasn’t accomplishing anything before

Here’s the thing, getting started is often the hardest part and 5 minutes is ridiculously easy and non-threatening (remember that primitive brain?), that it was easy to commit to. And if you know Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Five minutes is usually all I need to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling.

3. Lower Expectations

The final tool is lower your expectations. Now, I’m not saying lower your standards, always do your best. Just accept in the beginning your best might not be all that good. But in order to improve you have to practice. I read about a pottery teacher that did an experiment. He told one class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they made. He told another their grades would be based on one pot. The class that was graded on quantity actually produced the best pots. Why? Practice! They were focused on the process while the one pot class was focused on the product. In the beginning quantity is more important than but will eventually lead to quality. It’s the process, all that practice that matters, not the product, which is just the end result. So quit worrying about how good it is.

Pursuing our goals is gratifying but the path is seldom easy. It’s good to have some tools that we can use that work with our brain to get us started as well as get us back on track if we slip into old habits when the novelty and excitement of our goal wears off. When you are having trouble getting started I challenge you to apply breaking things down, the 5 minute plan and lowering your expectations.

Wisdom from Trailblazing Women

I recently joined the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and went attended my first meeting Tuesday evening. The title of the meeting was  Powerful Women at SXSW and included Terri Gruca (KVUE anchorwoman), Brandy Amstel (filmmaker), Laura McCanlies (Business Technology) and Teryn Fogel (producer).

Shame on me because I wasn’t prepared to take notes and there was a lot of really good information and advice. Here are the highlights:

  • Try to be the smartest person in the room, it’s not about IQ or being a know-it-all, it’s about being prepared. Don’t bring up problems unless you can also offer solutions.
  • Take ownership of your future. Don’t wait for permission to do what you want to do. Go after it. This is a huge issue with many women. We wait for someone to make the offer instead of going after what we want.
  • Be the one with the idea or innovation and don’t be afraid to sell your idea. Speak up and be the first to get your idea out there.
  • Be true to yourself (this came up a lot). Realize not everyone is going to like you. (I heard a saying that sums it up perfectly. I call it SW3 – some will, some won’t, so what).
  • Stand up for yourself and for your vision. Don’t be wishy-washy and let other people water it down. Women tend to be pleasers so we’ll back down in an effort to gain approval. We need to stand in our power.
  • When asked what they considered the key principle that brought success they answered with:
    • Trust your gut,
    • curiosity,
    • a willingness and desire to learn,
    • listening,
    • understanding where other people are coming from,
    • connecting with others,
    • reading between the lines.
  • Advice they’d give to women starting out in their business –
    • Take time to get to know yourself
    • Be willing to experiment – it’s how you’ll figure out what you want to do, your talents, passions, etc. Get a broad base of knowledge and then narrow it down (or not)
    • Don’t be complacent. Grown, expand and try to learn something new about your job to love or look for new things to be excited about.
    • Figure out what is really important to you.
  • When asked as a trailblazer, how did were they able to move forward without affirmation. Brandy gave a wonderful answer when she said she didn’t need affirmation from others. Her affirmation came from knowing who she was and following her own path. Her affirmation came from her heart, not from some external source. Terri expanded on Brandy’s comment by saying it is our responsibility to do it for other people even if we don’t get it.

It was an inspiring and memorable panel and I was also impressed with my chapter president, Kerri, who did a marvelous job of asking the questions and moderating the discussion. I don’t know how other chapters do it but I was blown away with the Austin Chapter. It’s obvious that they are truly devoted to lifting each other up.

 

 

The Importance of Self-Care

The Importance of Self-CareWednesday morning I was psyched! I had attended a Texas Business Women’s meeting the night before and was excited about the connections I made as well as the organization itself. By dinnertime I had turned into the Grinch – I didn’t want any contact with anyone whatsoever. All I wanted to do was crawl into a cave and be left alone.

What happened?

The whole episode brought home a very important but often overlooked point – in order to function at our optimal level we need to take care of ourselves.As an introvert, I recharge by being alone. I hadn’t any quality time with myself for over six weeks and I was getting cranky.

It’s a mistake to think you don’t have time for self-care when you have goals you want to achieve and deadlines to meet. But we only hinder our progress if we try to press on when we are hungry, tired, unfocused and/or stressed out. We need to pay careful attention to our physical, emotional and intellectual needs along the way.

Taking care of ourselves can take on many different forms depending on who you are and where you are in life. We need to meet our physical needs for food, water, sleep and shelter. We need to meet our emotional needs with social connections and we need to meet our intellectual needs – to be challenged and grow.

In addition to the standard advice of eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep there are a million little and big things we can do. Some of my favorite are:

  • Making and eating a home cooked meal
  • Watching a funny movie
  • A hot, candle lit bubble bath
  • Curling up under a blanket on a cold day and drinking hot chocolate
  • Being in nature (walking, hiking)
  • Getting a massage, manicure and/or pedicure
  • Decluttering and organizing (yep, I’m weird)
  • Sitting around a campfire and looking at the stars
  • Getting a hug from family and friends
  • Dancing (both country and goofing around the house to good tunes)
  • Laying in a hammock and reading a good book
  • Pursuing a hobby (mine are knitting, crochet and sewing)
  • Wine tasting
  • Having a deep philosophical conversation
  • Swinging (on a swing – I’ll never be too old to play on a swing set)
  • gardening
  • yoga

Make sure you are making time to care for yourself. All I needed was to close myself off in my room, get under the covers and read a good book. It made a world of difference in my energy level and attitude the next day.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

 

 

Who Owns the Problem – Taking Back Control

Who owns the problem - taking back controlDiane is intelligent, driven and stuck in a dead end job. “Why do I always settle for boring jobs I’m overqualified for?”, she asked in a recent session. “I know I have so much more to contribute but whenever I see a position that really interests me, I always seem to find some excuse why I’m not cut out for it.”

Melissa, on the other hand, has been the rising star of her company. She was recently promoted to a managerial position. But her star is starting to look a little tarnished. Her boss sat her down recently because her department wasn’t hitting its goals. She thinks her former coworkers are jealous of her success and trying to sabotage her.

What do these two women have in common? In order to find the solution they need to figure out who owns the problem.

Whenever you are stuck, blaming someone else or making excuses chances are  you are either taking ownership of a problem that’s NOT yours or avoiding a problem that IS yours.

After some further questioning, Diane told me she paid for her college education although her parents footed the bill for her brother. Her father didn’t see any point in a woman getting an education. His expectations for Diane didn’t go beyond getting married and having children. The message she got was women aren’t as worthy. All through college, her father constantly called her “Miss High and Mighty” for daring to want more. And while she did graduate from college, her father’s message became the tape that played in her head. Diane was taking responsibility for a problem she didn’t own. It was eating away at her self-esteem and keeping her trapped in jobs well below her skill level. She had internalized her father’s opinion instead of viewing it as just that – HIS opinion. She didn’t own the problem – her father did.

Melissa charged into her managerial position like a bull in a china shop. She implemented changes and then started micromanaging her team. Her team rebelled and dug their heels in and productivity dropped. Melissa didn’t see how her managerial style was affecting morale and tried to pass off her problem on to her coworkers, blaming them for not hitting the goals. After overhearing one of her employees call her “The Dictator”, she questioned how her behavior might be affecting everyone else. She took ownership of the problem and began changing how she interacted with her team.

We all want control over our lives and the answer to “who owns the problem” is all about who has control. When you are owning someone else’s problem, like Diane, you are letting someone else control you. When you are blaming someone else for your problem, you are trying to control them. The only person we have control over is ourselves so it’s important to take care of our own problems.

 

Scorecard for Success

success is consistently doing the right things

I’m working with a client who wants to start her own business. Her idea is solid; she spent a lot of time researching it and putting together a business plan and website. But when it came time to implement it, she suddenly found herself distracted and losing interest. Her enthusiasm waned and she ignored it for a year. She hired me after she was laid off from her job and the thought of looking for another “soul-sucking” position (her words) made her sick and depressed. She realized it was time to go for it.

With coaching, she saw how her lack of confidence, self-doubts and fear of rejection were holding her back from marketing and promoting her business.

Marketing and self-promotion are vital to the success of any business. It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one knows about it. This was the problem my client was running into. She was focusing on her fears and doubts it triggered and stopped her from doing anything.

I’ve been in her shoes. When I created my business I wasn’t getting much attention. I knew the next step was to promote it and I procrastinated. I suffered from the same self-doubts and fear of rejection many of my clients have. (It’s a common issue with many woman). Suddenly it dawned on me. Building a client base is nothing more than consistently taking the right action. It’s a numbers game and a scorecard is the perfect tool. Not only can you track your progress, it also diverts your attention away from all those imaginary goblins in your mind (that trigger your worst fears) by giving you concrete steps to focus on.

Scorecard for Success

Here’s how it works. Write down all the steps needed to achieve your goal. In my client’s case, it’s increasing traffic to her website. How do you get traffic to your website? There are a number of things you can do:

  • start a blog and post regularly
  • offer a freebie for subscribers
  • build a presence in your industry’s community (think Linkedin or professional associations)
  • guest blog
  • be a podcast guest
  • give a speech
  • submit articles

Pick a few things you think will give you the best results and be consistent in your efforts. If you don’t know where to start, look at what other successful people did and start there.

Marketing is about building a presence and trust. It’s not a one shot deal, you need to do it consistently and this is where most people fail. They are impatient, want results too soon and give up. But if you are patient and consistently take the right action, eventually things will tip in your favor.

Create your Scorecard

Create a spreadsheet (or just write it on a piece of paper, it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated) and write down in one column all your steps. Every time you do something on your scorecard, mark it. I find a weekly scorecard works best. At the end of the week tally up how many times you did each step (i.e. wrote a blog post, articles submitted, etc). Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things. Start with three things and re-evaluate after a couple of months.

Keeping score accomplishes a couple of things:

  1. Weekly “to-do” list of action items. We tend to complicate things. Having a scorecard creates a system. All you have to do is work it.
  2. Stay focused. In the beginning, you will expend more effort and energy on your goal because you haven’t gained any momentum. Ideally, after consistently taking the right action and things are moving, it will take less effort to maintain your momentum. Focus on your action steps and give them time to work instead of jumping all over the place and wondering why nothing’s working.
  3. Feedback. How do you know if you’re taking the right action? Numbers don’t lie. Try something and give it sufficient time (three months) and if you aren’t getting the results you want, try something different! When you have quantifiable data you can properly asses your progress and switch gears where needed.
  4. Build good habits. When you do something consistently, you end up creating a habit. Good habits simplify life.

The scorecard was a game changer for me and my clients. It’s simple and effective. Give it a try for one of your goals.

How to Stay Motivated

How to stay motivated

Why is it 92% of us who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them before January is even over?

A new year means a new beginning. We reflect on how much (or little) we accomplished the last year and promise ourselves this year will be better/different. This year we’ll lose the weight, finish our degree, get a better job, travel more, etc. Our enthusiasm and optimism is running high – we are motivated with a capital M. But sometime before February 1 we start running out of steam, we are stressed, tired and end up falling into our same old habits and routines.

How to Stay Motivated

How do we keep up our enthusiasm for our goals in the “real” world?

  1. Come up with a compelling “why”. What is the reason for wanting this goal? To feel better, make more money, find a sense of purpose, be more fulfilled? It should be personal (i.e. something you feel strongly about achieving, not something your parents/significant other/boss/friends think you should do).
  2. Make it positive. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – make your “why” positive. You will be focusing on it a lot and it’s hard to stay motivated if your constantly pounding away at the negative. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight (even the word “lose” has a negative connotation), focus on the positive benefits such as better health, feel better, have more energy (your compelling “why”) instead of “I don’t want to be fat”. With the latter, fat becomes your focus and you’ll end up with more of it, not less! Examine your goal, if achieving it makes you feel like you have to deprive yourself, you need to either find another goal or get a different perspective on the situation.
  3. Envision the end result. Create a vision for life after you’ve reached your goal. Imagine what you’ll look like, how you’ll feel (joy, pride, confidence, peace, etc). The key is to make your vision as vivid as possible to tap into strong, positive emotions. I make it a habit to think about my goals right before I fall asleep because our minds are in a receptive state. Another way to keep your vision front and center is to create a vision board or post pictures on your bathroom mirror or fridge. The pictures you choose should evoke a positive emotion.
  4. Break your goal into small steps. Maybe your goal is to lose 50 pounds. That’s a pretty daunting goal – it can feel out of reach when you’re just getting started. Break your goal down. Commit to losing two pounds this week. Feels much more doable.
  5. Find a buddy. Find a friend who is working on goals (they don’t have to be the same goals) and check in with each other. First, having someone support you, cheer you on, bounce ideas off of and bitch to is helpful. Secondly, if you’re like me, I tend to find it harder to break a promise or disappoint someone else so I tend to step up my game.
  6. Celebrate the wins. Don’t wait until you’ve achieved your goal, celebrate all the small little wins along the way. Find ways to celebrate that won’t throw you off track or sabotage your progress (such as treating yourself to a donut when you’ve lost 2 pounds). It could be something simple like hitting the neighborhood park, watching an episode of your current Netflix obsession, indulging in a hot bath with candles and music, any little treat you wouldn’t normally do.
  7. Learn from the losses. There will be times when things don’t work out so well, maybe you backslide. Forgive yourself, learn from it and move on. Maybe it’s a sign you need to take a different approach. Maybe you’re pushing yourself too hard and need some downtime. But don’t use it as an excuse to give up. One slip doesn’t mean failure. It means you’re human.

 

Quit Depending on Willpower

Willpower is ineffective in achieving goalsThe American Psychological Association does an annual survey called Stress in America. The most cited reason for not being able to follow through on changes (such as losing weight) is willpower.

What is Willpower?

Willpower is self-control. The ability to delay gratification, a strong determination, or restraint. Willpower is a tool our conscious mind uses to help us control our lives. It carries a negative connotation – deprivation. It is an ineffective way to achieve goals.

Why Willpower is Ineffective

To illustrate why, I’ll share with you what I learned in my neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) training.

Willpower is an ineffective tool to changeThink of your mind as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg, the part that is above water, represents your conscious awareness. In addition to willpower, we also use rational and analytical thinking as a way to control ourselves. Unfortunately, only about ten percent of what we do, we do consciously.

Below the water line lies the rest of the iceberg, our subconscious mind. This accounts for 90% of our behavior. Herein lies our habits, physiological systems (ie. breathing), impulses and emotions and our strategies for dealing with our world.

When we employ willpower to make changes in our lives, such as weight loss, we are only using ten percent of our mind. However, the other 90% is running the show. You are pitting logic (conscious mind) against emotions and deeply ingrained habits and strategies. As a result, willpower is always going to be a struggle.

If you want to elicit real, permanent change, you have to get your subconscious on board and leverage its power.

Imagination is More Effective than Willpower

There is a reason why diets fail and you have trouble breaking bad habits (habits of thought included).With willpower, you are in a constant battle with your subconscious mind. The odds are against you and your subconscious mind is going to sabotage your efforts.

Instead of having your subconscious fight you, (willpower creates stress by exerting force) you want to win it over so it will work for you. How do you do that?

Luckily, we have the perfect tool – imagination. Imagination is positive and affirming. Using our imagination diminishes stress and opens up our creative channels instead of strong-arming us into submission, like willpower.

Change in itself is often stressful. The key is to find the path of least resistance, make it as easy and fun as possible. Imagination and visualization helps us do that. There are a couple of guidelines to make this work:

  1. Know your “why” – what is motivating you to make this change?  What result or outcome do you want? Just because your spouse, boss, parent, etc said you should do it is not enough motivation and chances are you won’t succeed. Make it personal and meaningful to you.
  2. Make it positive – When you have your why, the reason you want to make this change in your life or why you want to achieve a goal, make sure it’s positive. When times get tough (and there will be some rough patches), your “why” is going to be your life preserver. It’s going to remind you of the big payoff of all this hard work. You’re going to be giving it a lot of focus, so make it positive. If you’re goal is to lose weight because you are tired of being called a fat slob, then all that’s going to do is dredge up bad feelings. And if you’re an emotional eater, next thing you know you’re shoving down donuts as a means to comfort yourself. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of losing weight – having more energy to play with your kids, feeling better, etc.

Once you determine your reasons for making a change/achieving a goal are truly yours and you are motivated to do it, you can enlist the power of your imagination and use visualization instead of willpower.

Note: Imagination/visualization are tools to keep you motivated and should be used in conjunction with action, not instead of. Without action, you aren’t going to achieve anything.

How do you use imagination to help create positive, permanent change? Find a (preferably) quiet place. Giving yourself time right after you wake up or right before you go to bed is ideal but you can do it anywhere – while on the train/bus to work, waiting in line, drinking your morning coffee, taking a shower, etc. Then use your imagination to visualize any of the following scenarios. Make it as real as possible, include sounds, smells, sensations, etc. Evoke as many positive emotions and feelings as you can.

  1. Visualize your life after you’ve accomplished your goal. If it’s weight loss, imagine how you will look in your new clothes and how confident you feel. Picture your new found energy, imagine just how much better you feel when you can climb up stairs or playing with your (grand) children without getting winded. Focusing on the end result will help keep you motivated.
  2. Mentally rehearse. Our brains don’t distinguish between real and imaginary events (which is why our bodies react to imaginary fears as if they were really happening). Athletes employ this technique all the time but it can be used for any situation. You can rehearse a speech, visualizing yourself in front of the crowd, appearing confident, enjoying yourself.
  3. Vent your emotions.Change is hard and one of the things that trips us up is our impulses and emotions. And since what we resist, persists, give them a voice and acknowledge them instead of burying them. If you don’t, eventually they’ll rear their ugly little heads and the littlest thing will push you over the edge. Instead, invite all those emotions in – fear, jealousy, doubt. You can give them names and personalities. Let them have their say and vent. You can do this in your head or you can write it out in a journal, which is my favorite method. The point is, acknowledging them diffuses their power.

When you use these tools, you’ll achieve your goals with less stress because you’re leveraging your subconscious mind with the power of your imagination instead of trying to force yourself through willpower. In other words, which would you prefer, a boss who is a drill sergeant or someone who acts more like a mentor?

 

 

Overcoming Procrastination

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is a common problem. Clients often tell me that it’s a huge problem for them. But procrastinating is not the real problem, it is merely the symptom of an underlying issue.

Before I get too deep into procrastinating and how to overcome it, I’d like to talk about incubation. When in the creative process or working out a problem, it is typical to go through a “ruminating” phase, when you turn over all of your work to your subconscious and give it a chance to work on the problem. This is where those “aha!” moments come from. Do not confuse this important phase with procrastination. You should be able to tell the difference. For me, when I’m letting ideas percolate, my thinking is fuzzy. I feel slightly agitated because I don’t like not knowing. When I am procrastinating there is a feeling of avoidance and resistance.

Procrastination – Why we do it

As I previously stated, procrastination is not a cause but a symptom of a larger and more complex issue. Some of the reasons why we procrastinate include:

  1. Fears – Fear is uncomfortable and we often choose to relieve our discomfort by distracting ourselves with T.V., surfing the web, cleaning (notice how appealing cleaning is when faced with something you don’t want to do?), etc.
  2. Lack of confidence
  3. Perfectionism – As a recovering perfectionist, I understand how hard it can be to risk doing something that doesn’t live up to your (often unrealistic) expectations. In order to avoid making a mistake, looking bad or failing, our modus operandi is to do nothing.
  4. Bad habits – We become comfortable with our routines and bad habits and don’t realize how big of a hold they have on us. Habits are hard to change.
  5. Expecting things to be easy – If things have been relative easy for you all your life, taking on something that requires an effort can be, well, hard.

Tools to Overcome Procrastination

While it helps to understand and be aware of where our procrastination stems from, these tools don’t require identifying the origin in order to be effective.

Small Steps

Break down what you need to do into the smallest step possible, such as sticking with the task for 5 minutes. Small steps actually works on several levels. First, getting started is often the hardest part. When I am avoiding a task, I often tell myself I only have to do it for 5 minutes. It seems counter intuitive, how will you accomplish anything if you only do it for 5 minutes but it works. If I stop after 5 minutes, I’ve achieved my goal (and built up a little confidence). But what happens more often than not, is I continue because I’ve broken through that wall of inertia and gained some momentum.

Second, we often overwhelm ourselves by making that first step unrealistic. I used to make these ridiculous schedules, leaving little breathing room for anything else. And -surprise – I never followed them! It’s much less daunting to write a sentence than a book so break things down. Then break them down even further.

Find a Buddy

Find someone who is also working on a goal. Make it a habit to meet and work on your goals together (5 minutes at a time, if you have to), supporting and cheering each other on. Be picky about who you choose. I’ve been running consistently for nine years because I had a running partner when I started. Not just any partner, but someone who already had a running habit making it hard for me to back out. I knew if I did she would not go easy on me. She was the perfect partner because her good habits rubbed off on me and appealed to my competitive nature.

What Worked in the Past?

This is a powerful question. It gets our minds thinking about what we are trying to accomplish instead of what’s getting in our way. We procrastinate because we are focused on the negatives – I’ll make a fool of myself – instead of what we are trying to accomplish. We all have areas we’ve had success in and feel confident about. What did you do then that you can apply to your current situation?

You can not tell me that you’ve never had any success in your life. If you are reading this, you’ve mastered one of the hardest skills there is and you did it at a relatively young age – language and the all intricacies involved with it such as reading and writing.

I have found these tools to be easy to use and produce incredible results in a short period of time. Give them a try the next time you find yourself procrastinating.